MY SCOLIOSIS STORY: Alexa Garcia

Article by Alexa Garcia

Insecurities are tough. They beat at you like an angry animal trying to escape a cage. Our heads are the target they’re trying to defeat. Growing up, the media showcases people of one tone, all looking the same, with no ance, no differences, etc. We grow up thinking we have to be perfect. That’s where I come in. I’m here to tell you we don’t because frankly, it’s impossible. Emotions can be hurtful, but at the end of it all, there is a lesson to learn. For example, I knew I loved the Entertainment Industry, but I hid it deep within myself that I would ever want to be a part of it. I had tremendous ance, I was as skinny as a branch, and most of all, my back had a 20-degree curve in it. All of this is still somewhat relevant, but the one thing that has changed is my perspective. I had to start wearing a brace overnight for 8 hours in order to prevent my curve from getting worse. This is what Scoliosis is – when your spine has either a C or S-shaped curve facing a certain direction, maybe even twisting or turning. It’s not a disability per se, but it affects us who have it in different ways. In my case, my back never really aches, but rather mildly affects my appearance and posture. Having Scoliosis made me ignore my want to pursue performance because I didn’t see people like me in the industry. There are more than 3 million cases of Scoliosis per year in the United States. When something is so common, it should be talked about. I wanted to write this article in hopes that it not only educates whoever’s reading about Scoliosis and normalizes it, especially during the month of June (Scoliosis Awareness Month), but that it also helps you realize that it’s normal in itself to be different. A bent back will never entail that it’s broken. 

It was the end of May 2017 and I was carrying on with my life like normal. It wasn’t until about a year ago that I started to view myself differently because of my back. I didn’t know something so simple could affect you so harmfully. I thought my back was just a curved spine, not what would become my biggest insecurity. Thankfully, my curve was never too serious – over 40 degrees or so is the fine line between mild and severe Scoliosis. After this mark, Spinal Fusion surgery, where they apply rods and hooks along the curve of the spine to straighten it, is usually suggested in most cases to prevent the spine from not only getting worse but also from possibly affecting the persons lungs, breathing, heart, etc. Scoliosis, like any other diagnosis, affects patients differently. Either way, I’ve seen the toll it can have on one’s mental health and it isn’t pretty. I would always look up to actors and dancers, etc.

Alexa Garcia

Once I got Scoliosis and I realized that it could affect me in tremendous ways if I wasn’t careful, it made me put myself down and almost ignore the part of me that wanted to participate. I never saw any representation, any curved spines, any vocal insecurities in the people that are a part of the industry I care the most about. It ruined my chance to participate in Performing Arts because of my fear of not being good enough or being too different. At the current high school I go to, we have majors and academies. I wanted to be in the Performing Arts Academy and in the Musical Theatre major so bad! I remember applying in October of 2018 thinking “There’s no way I’m going to get into Musical Theatre if I’ve never even been in a production before! Plus, look at me!” I couldn’t get myself to apply to the major I really wanted to. Eventually, after 3 tries, I got accepted into the Arts and Tech major in June 2019. I was passionate about Film and Art itself, so I was excited regardless. I was going to stick to that area of Art since it’s what I knew the best. The second I started school this past September, I knew I wanted to try again for Performing Arts. What changed? Well, I met so many new people and teachers and had an abundance of experiences that reminded me why I wanted to perform in the first place. My freshman year taught me how worthy I am of following my dreams. Sooner or later, I just didn’t care about my back anymore. I remember, one of the first days of school, I approached a fellow classmate and they told me they had Scoliosis too. I was absolutely amazed! I spent the entirety of a year shutting myself up about my dreams because of my back, but it wasn’t even that big of a deal anyway?! I couldn’t believe it. I no longer felt alone and as it turns out, I’m in the process of finally applying for Musical Theatre now! I knew my back was curved, but I realized that it didn’t mean my wings were clipped. I was finally giving myself the chance to soar above the city landscapes and enjoy the view from high above. 

Tell me, what is the difference between a person with a curved spine and a straight one? Maybe you’ll be a little shorter, have a bump on one side of your hip, have your ribs sticking out, etc. For example, I actually have every single one of the things I previously mentioned. It doesn’t help that I’m underweight, but that’s whole other story. That’s not what’s important though. What’s important is the fact that this has nothing to do with who you are as a person. Everyone has something they deal with on a regular basis – mine happens to be my back. It’s these difficulties that make our journey in life so meaningful because of the lessons we learn from them. I wanted to write this article for Scoliosis Awareness Month to normalize insecurities and open up discussion on Scoliosis and other very common, but very unknown topics. Nothing deserves to be tucked away if it’s affecting you. Thank you so much for reading, and I hope this not only helps you learn about Scoliosis but also a little about us all as human beings with our own unique and pleasurable differences. Remember, don’t clip your own wings if they are the only things allowing you to fly.

BACKBONE

By Alexa Garcia
Your spine tells a story that no one sees.
It sits beneath your head 
and waits to please.
It bends and shapes into objects of obscurity.
I know it’s my backbone,
But it’s also an insecurity.

For 3 years, my back has been fit into a brace.
I realized soon enough - there is no easy 
reverse card for a 
spine out of place.
Every night was no longer 
a time of relaxation.
I knew what I had to do,
Wear a box-like figure 
around my torso in efforts 
to undergo life without hospitalization.

People talk about the areas of 
expertise that affect them the most.
When something is so common, shouldn’t 
it be talked about without boast? 
I’ve dealt with my fair share 
of many furious pressures.
Nothing to me though,
beats the guilt of silence from 
seeing straight backs in cropped sweaters.

I guess I thought my S-shaped spine 
meant I couldn’t perform.
I dreamt of doing so since I saw 
my brother on a stage with lights 
toward him, filled with hope. 
I wondered if I could be 
considered a good actress, singer, dancer.
What if all they were looking at,
Is my spine through the 
stretchy material of a leotard?

I know now that my spine may be 
curved but never broken.
My 3 sets of braces will 
always show a hint of my purpose.
Maybe my backbone will never 
be okay on its own.
It’s stronger, as I am and 
as you should be, 
with the idea of simple and 
beautiful human growth. 

-Alexia Garcia

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